One of the myriads of problems bedevilling the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry is the dearth of knowledge of power systems in Nigeria and unfortunately worldwide. Having an efficient and reliable power system requires dedication and hard work. To this end, there must be a clear focus on recruiting, training, and keeping the workforce for today and tomorrow. There is also the risk that developed countries will poach our engineers once they have been trained, attracting them to say the least, with offers of citizenship in “greener pastures”. Hence, a well articulated and constructive approach is required to ensure we meet this challenge and keep a sufficient level of expertise adequate for the survival of the power industry in Nigeria. How can this be done?
The foremost requirement is a regulation backed by law to ensure that various enablers are in place to support the deliberate development and optimal utilization of Nigerian human resources for the provision of electricity services in the power industry. The emphasis should be on ensuring the active participation and growth of the Nigerian industry and citizenry in the various services and activities that will be witnessed as Nigeria rebuilds her power network and infrastructure. I say active here because lazy, selfish and myopic investors will partner technical companies from the developed economies who, for many good reasons, will prefer to carry out the actual design, fabrication, manufacturing and testing of equipment from their overseas offices and locations. This will create jobs and opportunities overseas and add little to our subject matter. With foot on the ground, business economics will prevail and within a reasonable period of time, so many companies will shift base to Nigeria to carry out these activities and more. Ofcourse some balance is required here as the intention is not to stifle the development of the power industry and this is why those who understand the business of electricity generation, transmission, distribution and supply are required to manage the process. In addition, there is need to track, monitor, review and measure the development of this objective at every stage. Statistical methods showing status quo ante and progress in the many areas is a must.
In view of the dearth of knowledge of power systems in the country, the new owners of the Nigerian power assets, their technical consultants and Nigerian professionals home and abroad should be asked to submit a list of the activities that they believe would be carried out in the short and long-term in the power industry. They should equally state those activities they would be more likely to provide services for pre-qualification and assessment of their capabilities or otherwise, to acceptable international standards. This should form a database akin to the Joint Qualification System (JQS) in use in the oil and gas industry. The Nigerian Content Division of NNPC could be approached for help in this area.
In parallel, there is need to establish support industries that will sustain the operations of the electricity supply industry. For example, the stakeholders in the power industries could fund the operations of an association that looks after the research and development of technology, industry standards, equipment specification, power groups and fora, conferences etc that are unique to the power industry. This is not usurping the powers or duplicating the position of Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) which focuses on all industries, rather, it is as described, unique to the power industry. Another opportunity exists for Government or private organizations to fund accredited organizations that will provide training to international Standards for Nigerians or anyone working in the power industry.
The certificates issued by these organizations shall be well recognized in the power industry and could soon be a basis for assessing staff competency levels, training needs and development. In this regard, Nigeria should take the lead in establishing these organizations to service the entire African continent with a long term vision in view.
A national orientation, preferably carried out by the appropriate Government agency, to educate, re-orientate, and keep Nigerians abreast of the goings-on in the power industry is required. This will focus on issues of consumer interests, successful projects, energy conservation, TV adverts and educative programmes specific to the power industry, available opportunities for employments and or provision of services. Take for example, if a parent is aware that a job opportunity is available in a suitable location for his ward, the lazy individual with requisite skill and qualification would be helped to eschew laziness and pursue industriousness and dexterity.
There will be an opportunity for “expatriates” to work in the power industry going forward. But the same was true when Oil was discovered in Oloibiri on Sunday 15th January 1956. What was missing is a clear focus on how to “Nigerianize” the industry that would emerge. The result? Half-baked and unqualified “expatriates”, not qualified in their countries of origin to practice engineering, flocked into Nigeria, were trained by Nigerians only to become the managers of the sector. Also, little or no transfer of technology and management of the oil and gas industry resulted from the nepotism, anachronism, prochialism, parochialism and political jingoism that permeated the era. To prevent the unwholesome outcome like the foot dragging we see with the petroleum industry bill in the power industry of the future, any expatriate coming to work in the power industry must be required to have demonstrable experience in number of years (you may wish to specify a minimum of years of cognate experience depending on skill and level of job to be carried out) relevant to the job specification, commensurate degree of education and membership of an internationally recognised professional engineering institution such as IEEE, IET etc. This is to prevent the situation which occurred in the Oil industry where so called expatriates lacking requisite skills to do the job were trained by Nigerian operators in the Industry only to become their managers in the course of few months down the line. In a similar vein, consultants to the Nigerian Power Industry should be so registered at an appropriate level to the services rendered. Also, every international or multi-national Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) having the intention of carrying on business in Nigeria should take appropriate steps to obtain incorporation as a separate entity in Nigeria in line with the provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990. Attempts to maintain superficial presence in Nigeria, but carry on services using expertise from their parent companies overseas should be prevented. This will include works such as design, settings calculation, etc. There are many ways, and these are well documented, to incentivise companies, organizations or institutions that demonstrate their full support of these initiatives. These will include but not limited to giving them special considerations among bidders for jobs, deliberately asking them to carry out the tasks if they have the requisite experience, asking them to do engineering, research and development, procurement, training and other technical and non- technical Services as may be required.
To be continued………………….
Idowu Oyebanjo MNSE CEng MIET writes from the UK